WHO: Bowling Green (5-5) at USF (6-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Sun Dome
TV: Live Web stream on GoUSFBulls.com
RADIO: 98.7-FM The Fan (Jim Lighthall and Todd Kalas)
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls know taking care of business before Big East season begins can make for a much more relaxing time when NCAA selections are made.
USF went 7-6 in non-conference play last season before posting a school-record 12 Big East wins in the regular season and making it all the way to the conference quarterfinals. After all that, Stan Heath's squad had to sweat it out for about 40 minutes before USF was officially invited to the tournament for the first time since 1992.
"I was on the edge of my seat. It definitely made the experience a lot more exciting," senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said at the time.
Fitzpatrick and the Bulls would prefer an easier experience during the next Selection Show and have been determined to heat up much earlier in the season. So far, so good for a USF team that shoots for a 7-3 start 7 p.m. Friday when Bowling Green pays a visit to the Sun Dome.
"I think we know we have all the pieces. It's the point of putting everything together and just playing together as a team," said point guard Anthony Collins, who posted 14 points and seven assists in USF's 72-54 win over Youngstown State on Tuesday.
USF's offense kicked things into high gear during Tuesday's second half, outscoring the Penguins, 33-9, during a pivotal stretch in the game. The Bulls also looked a lot like the 2011-12 version on defense, limiting Youngstown State to eight field goals in 29 attempts (27 percent) after the break.
"I thought our defense kept turning it up, and turning it up, and we finally were able to get the stops we needed," Heath said.
The Bulls have held opponents to 63 points or fewer in every game since a season-opening loss to UCF and they look to keep the trend going against Bowling Green (5-5). The Falcons are averaging 61.3 points this season and are coming off a 64-53 loss to No. 20 Michigan State on Tuesday.
The Falcons' main players to watch are guard Jordon Crawford and A'uston Calhoun, who aren't your ordinary top scoring duo. Crawford (15.7 ppg) poses a nice challenge for Collins and the USF defense despite being only 5-foot-6. The senior led the team in assists last season (153) and has 39 through 10 games.
Calhoun is averaging 15.4 points and has done a lot of damage inside with his 6-foot-7 frame. Calhoun and Crawford have combined for 31.1 points per game, which ranks the pair second in the category in the Mid-American Conference.
The Bulls' final non-conference home game is Saturday, Dec. 29 against George Mason at 7 p.m. before a trip to UCF on Jan. 2. USF gets Big East play going Sunday, Jan. 6 at home against Syracuse.